Exploring your interests

5 unique electives for residents 

Interested in medical journalism, health policy, biomedical informatics or reproductive health? Learn about these opportunities for residents.


One of the best things about being a medical student is finishing your core rotations and being able to choose your electives. When I was in my fourth year, I looked for every interesting elective I could find. Ultimately, I had about 25 interests and only a few months, but I enjoyed every elective I experienced. I also made sure they were electives that would not only teach me something about medicine, but also allow me to enjoy the last of my time as a medical student to the fullest. 

My fourth year was greatly affected by COVID-19 in that my school started to offer more unique rotations outside of the hospital and clinic setting, and that was a silver lining. I was able to do a virtual Spanish language elective, public health elective and a two-month research elective where I completed a scholarship project. Now that I’m a second-year resident and my time to choose residency electives is arising, I’m once again excited by the options before me. Below are a few unique electives residents should know about.

ABC News Medical Journalism Elective Rotation

Rotation length: Four to 12 weeks

Location: New York City

Website: ABC News Rotation

If you have an interest in medical journalism or the ways in which health care and the media are connected, this elective from ABC News is a great option. Open to both residents and fellows, participants gain experience in journal study review and communications. You’ll also have the opportunity to write articles and pitch stories to the ABC News Medical Unit. This rotation is especially ideal for anyone considering a fellowship in medical journalism after residency.

George Washington University Residency Fellowship in Health Policy (RFHP)

Rotation length: Three weeks

Location: Washington, DC

Website: RFHP

If you enjoy health policy or just want a better understanding of health policy in the U.S., consider the RFHP. This rotation is offered twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. A strength of the rotation is that it capitalizes on GW’s Washington, DC, location and the extraordinary health policy resources available there. However, it’s only free to GW residents. If you’d like to apply from an outside institution, there is a tuition cost.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Health Policy Elective

Rotation length: One month 

Location: New York City

Website: NYC DHMH

If you enjoy health policy and want to learn about it within a major urban health department, New York City offers a rotation through their public health and preventive medicine residency program.

This rotation includes experiences such as field visits (e.g., restaurant inspections, lead poisoning investigations, neighborhood health action center tours), grand rounds, journal club, health department seminars, Board of Health meetings, community coalition meetings and public health/preventive medicine residency seminars. Residents will also complete a public health project on a topic of their choice under the guidance of public health physicians.

NIH Biomedical Informatics Elective 

Rotation length: Four to eight weeks

Location: Bethesda, Maryland

Website: NIH Biomedical Informatics

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be responsible for medical informatic research, you might be interested in the field of biomedical informatics. Offered through the National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library, this elective is geared toward residents who are interested in using computing systems, networked communications and information technologies in medicine.

Projects are organized into six research areas: health information standards and discovery; image processing; natural language processing; evolutionary genomics and biomolecular structure; statistical methods; and networks/gene regulation/chromatin. Applicants are expected to have had some experience with computing and information systems, including programming, in clinical medicine or clinical research. 

Fundacion Marie Stopes Mexico Reproductive Health Elective 

Rotation length: Variable, including two weeks and one month

Location: Mexico 

Website: Fundacion Marie Stopes Mexico 

If you’re looking for a reproductive health rotation and an international one at the same time, look no further than Fundacion Marie Stopes Mexico. FMSM operates full-spectrum clinics providing women with STI screening, preventive screenings and comprehensive reproductive health services. Their website is in Spanish and their patient population is Spanish-speaking, so an understanding of Spanish is helpful.

Additional elective options

Finally, if you know of a residency program that offers a unique elective to their residents, consider reaching out to the program or asking your own program to help connect you. Many programs accept visiting residents and encourage their participation. By doing this, you can find electives in a variety of interests such as rural medicine, wilderness medicine, street medicine, border health, community medicine, integrative medicine and even culinary medicine.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

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